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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Egyptians march on in Montreal

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Shawn Delierre gets ready for the media
Shawn Delierre gets ready for the media

Delierre downed but Harrity flies the flag for USA
By ERIC BELANGER in Montreal

 

Egyptian top seeds Karim Abdel Gawad and Ali Farag powered through the first round of the PSA M35 Montreal Open at Club Sportive MAA, demonstrating the phenomenal depth of quality players emerging from the world’s dominant squash nation.

Gawad overcame the immense physical attributes of American Chris Gordon, while Farag withstood the challenge posed by former top ten player Laurens Jan Anjema of the Netherlands. Both Gordon and Anjema won their opening games. From then on the Egyptians took control.

England’s Adrian Waller also looked to be in control as he led 2-1 in games, but Hong Kong youngster Tsz Fung Yip hit back to win 3-2. In an all-French affair, Greg Marche won through against Lucas Serme. Marche will fly the tricolour in the quarter finals in an intriguing match-up against Hong Kong’s Leo Au, who beat Jamaica’s Christopher Binnie.

America’s Todd Harrity produced a superb display to beat Mexico’s Alfredo Avila and now meets stylish Englishman Tom Richards, who ended the hopes of Canadian wild card David Baillargeon. Nafiizwan Adnan of Malaysia beat Canada’s Shawn Delierre in 35 minutes and now meets Farag in the last eight. Top seed Gawad faces Yip.

Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) (1) vs Christopher Gordon (USA)

The tournament’s first seed, Karim Abdel Gawad opened up the night by playing against American qualifier Christopher Gordon. In a surprising turn of events, it was Gordon who was able to set the tone early on as he surprised the Egyptian who took a while to settle himself into the match and grabbed the first game 11-7.

Losing the first game seemed to spark the seventh ranked player in the world back into life, with the Egyptian finding his groove from the get-go and forging himself a solid lead into the second. His deception and fluid, silky movement really was the cutting edge against Gordon, who was left looking for answers. Gawad took the second game 11-6, and rapidly carried on his momentum by taking the third game 11-1.

As the match progressed, it was more evident that the Egyptian was finding his form and the American was looking more and more helpless as he could not answer his opponent’s deception and anticipation, as evidenced by the numerous times he was set the wrong way. The crowd was pleased by Gawad’s performance as he took the final game 11-6.

Tsz Fung Yip (HKG) vs Adrian Waller (ENG) (6)

It was a battle of contrasting styles as Yip was looking to utilize his agility to fend off his opponent’s height advantage. The beginning of the match was heavily contested as Yip showed how comfortable he was moving on court and took the first game 12-10.

The hardly fought first game prompted the left-handed Waller to adjust his style, and was rewarded for it initially as the Hong Kong representative had a much harder time reaching the Englishmen’s well-placed volleys. This allowed him to comfortably take the second game 11-3. Yip offered a better performance in the third game and was able to extend the rallies. While it was a valiant effort, it was not enough to prevent Waller from taking the third game 11-8.

After being off to a strong start in the fourth, the sixth seed seemed to be less consistent than his opponent as he grew frustrated with Yip’s retrieving abilities. Yip battled on, and was able to come up big during the crucial points, as he made a remarkable comeback and saved multiple match balls to take the fourth 12-10. The momentum was definitely on the Hong Kong’s representative side, as he was able to upset the increasingly frustrated sixth seed of the tournament 11-7 in the fifth.

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Alfredo Avila (MEX) (8) vs Todd Harrity (USA)

In an all North-American face-off, top-ranked American Todd Harrity, a qualifier, was set to play against his Mexican rival Alfredo Avila. It was Harrity who was able to find form first, as he seemed well-tuned from his preceding qualifying matches and was able to limit the speedy Avila’s shot selection. The qualifier showcased his ability to move his opponent around, and deservedly took the first game 11-7. T

he American was able to maintain court advantage, and presented a wide array of shots to successfully prevent Avila from threatening and keeping him on the run. Avila’s ability to stay in the rallies certainly earned him quite a few points, but it would prove to not be enough as Harrity claimed the second 11-9.

The eight seed, who was participating in his first main draw performance of 2016, was left disappointed as he could not find ways to threaten the American in the third game. Harrity surged to an early lead and would never look behind as he upset the Mexican 11-6 in the third.

David Baillargeon (CAN) vs Tom Richards (ENG) (3)

It was an exceptional moment for fan favourite David Baillargeon, as he was set to play against Tom Richards, 23rd in the world, in front of his home crowd at the MAA.

The Quebec City native was off to a rocky start as he seemed content to extend the rallies against the third seed, who is looking to shake off a second round loss in his previous tournament in Chicago. Richards was able to establish a strong court position, but the Canadian was determined to fight for every point. Baillargeon’s ability to survive earned him a few points from Richards’ unforced errors, but these were too far in between and the Englishmen took the first game 11-5.

The crowd was certainly on the Canadian’s side, as they expressed their satisfaction when their favorite was able to finish off some hard fought points early in the second. However, Richards’ experience came in handy as he was able to remain composed through the wildcard’s attempts to get back in the game. Ultimately, the third seed was able to successfully contain Baillargeon and limit his attacking opportunities, and letting the 19 year old do most of the running. Richards was able to successfully play spoilers as he took the last two games 11-5 and 11-6.

Gregoire Marche (FRA) (4) vs Lucas Serme (FRA)

Le prochain match sur le court 1 mettait en vedette les deux représentants français du tournoi : Grégoire Marche, classé 27e au monde affrontait son compatriote Lucas Serme, classé 38e. Il s’agit du 4e tournoi de 2016 pour ces deux joueurs.

Ce fut Marche, un habitué de l’évènement montréalais, qui fût en mesure de s’imposer en premier à la suite de plusieurs longs échanges. La quatrième tête de série a démontré qu’il était capable de déplacer son adversaire à la suite de plusieurs longs échanges. Il a rapidement pris les devants 6-0, avant que la foule n’assiste finalement au réveil de Serme, qui s’est approché à 7- 4. Le réveil n’allait pas s’arrêter là, alors que Serme ira même jusqu’à s’offrir deux balles de partie. Marche devra multiplier les plongeons acrobatiques pour survivre, et s’approprier la première partie 12-10.

La deuxième partie se déroula de façon similaire, alors que Marche fut encore en mesure de prendre l’initiative sur Serme en début de partie. Les échanges furent de longue durée, alors que les deux adversaires semblaient être en mesure de se neutraliser. La foule était impressionnée par les qualités athlétiques des deux joueurs. Marche, qui célèbre aujourd’hui son 26e anniversaire, était en mesure de mieux terminer ses échanges et cela lui a permis de prendre la deuxième partie 11-6. Serme semblait avoir de la difficulté à bien entamer ses parties, et le natif de Valence était encore en mesure de prendre une avance rapide. Malgré une autre poussée tardive, le 38e joueur au monde n’était pas en mesure d’empêcher Marche de gagner l’ultime partie 11-9. La foule a certainement apprécié le match, qui a duré 60 minutes.

Christopher Binnie (JAM) vs Leo Au (HKG)

Leo Au got off to a fast start, as he was able to find solutions to the Jamaican’s attacks. His fluid court movement served him well and Au was able to survive a late comeback attempt to take it 11-9. Binnie revised his tactics and was determined to keep fighting in the second game. He was working extremely hard to match Au’s retrieving abilities, and even managed to grab the second game 11-9.

The third game was, again, evenly disputed. Au kept finding ways to stay in rallies as he was being pressured by the Jamaican, who certainly tried to use his height advantage. His ability to survive repetitive attacks frustrated Binnie, who started to look like the more tired player. The Hong Kong representative was able to cling on to grab the third 12-10. Binnie, who had to go through a tough match against Haycocks in the qualifiers, looked exhausted in the fourth game, and Au took advantage of this by taking the fourth 11-4.

Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) (7) vs Shawn Delierre (CAN)

In the final match of the night on court one, local Shawn Delierre was squaring off with the 7th seed of the tournament, Nafizwan Adnan from Malaysia.

The Canadian had a slow start, and was often left exposed to the Malaysian’s attacks. Delierre seemed off his game after his grueling qualification match against Makin, and had trouble following the pace set by Adnan. The first game was certainly shorter than what Delierre is accustomed to, which he conceded 11-6. As the match progressed, the Malaysian still seemed to have the upper hand, and was in control of the rallies, much to the disarray of the crowd. The second game ended in an identical fashion, 11-6 for the Malaysian.

The Montreal representative gave a glimpse of hope to the crowd in the beginning of the third as he was able to string a few successive quality rallies. This would however prove to not be enough, as the seventh seed calmly weathered the storm and clinched a place in the quarter finals by taking the third game 11-7, and knocking out the last Canadian hope in the tournament.

Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) vs Ali Farag (EGY) (2)

Montreal LJIn the last match of the night on court 2, the second seed Ali Farag from Cairo was playing against Laurens Jan Anjema from Den Haag. This was a rematch from the Sharm el Sheikh Championship in 2015, where Farag was able to dispatch Anjema 3-0.

Anjema was certainly out to avenge this loss, and started the match by being able to match the Egyptian on court. Farag, much like his Egyptian counterpart Gawad, seemed take a little bit of time to adapt to the court, and was hitting quite a few unusual mistakes. The Dutch , with a strong start, was able to surprise Farag and take the first game 11-8.

The Egyptian, much like Gawad in the earlier match, seemed to find his form during the second game. The winner of the 2016 Motor City Open was able to up his game, and Anjema rapidly found himself in difficulty. Farag was able to build on his lead, and take the second game 11-8 to come back all square.

Anjema began to show signs of fatigue in the third game, and the Egyptian quickly capitalized on his opponent’s weakness by grabbing the game 11-4. At this point, the damage was done, and the second seed’s clinical display was too much for Anjema to handle, and he was eliminated after losing the fourth 11-4.

$35,000 Men’s Montreal Open 2016, Club Sportif MAA, Montreal, Canada

1st round:
[1] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt [Q] Christopher Gordon (USA) 7-11, 11-6, 11-1, 11-6 (42m)
Tsz Fung Yip (HKG) bt [6] Adrian Waller (ENG) 12-10, 3-11, 8-11, 12-10, 11-7 (74m)
[Q] Todd Harrity (USA) bt [8] Alfredo Avila (MEX) 11-7, 11-9, 11-6 (40m)
[3] Tom Richards (ENG) bt [WC] David Baillargeon (CAN) 11-5, 11-5, 11-6 (25m)
[4] Gregoire Marche (FRA) bt Lucas Serme (FRA) 12-10, 11-6, 11-9 (60m)
[5] Leo Au (HKG) bt [Q] Christopher Binnie (JAM) 11-9, 9-11, 12-10, 11-4 (53m)
[7] Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) bt [Q] Shawn Delierre (CAN) 11-6, 11-6, 11-7 (35m)
[2] Ali Farag (EGY) bt Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) 8-11, 11-8, 11-4, 11-4 (50m)
Quarter-finals:
[1] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v Tsz Fung Yip (HKG)
[3] Tom Richards (ENG) v [Q] Todd Harrity (USA)
[4] Gregoire Marche (FRA) v [5] Leo Au (HKG)
[2] Ali Farag (EGY) v [7] Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS)

Pictures by TREVOR BOWES

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